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E.C. McMullen Jr.
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"This Ray Bradbury-esque is one of the most memorable and one of the more original stories I've read in a long time."
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Although Richard Laymon died February 14, 2001, his wife continues to sell his previously unpublished manuscripts. (Thank you, M’Lady!)
Intertwining chain reactions
CUTS features the coming of age story about 17 year old Albert, a smart, practical, sociopathic killer. After his first spontaneous murder, he's immediately addicted to thrusting his knife deep into an attractive women's body; the more attractive they are, the better his high.
While Albert is discovering and honing his new talent, other characters also blossom, learn, and discover while stumbling along their own foreign paths. After living with her beloved Dave for three months, Janet discovers she's pregnant. She wants to keep the baby, but Dave wants her all to himself.
Meanwhile, Lester, a introverted library secretary, finally gets tired of Helen, the coldest fish in the pond. With her constant verbal abuse and sexual refusals, he decides to see who else is swimming around. Helen teaches at the same school as Ian. Writing under a pseudonym, he's a successful novelist, but retains his teaching position because it's a wonderful wealth of writing material. Though fairly low key, he has a bit of a hero complex, so he uses his movie connections to see if he can help Emily Jean's daughter.
Emily Jean also teaches at his school, and though she realizes she's past her Southern Belle prime, she wishes all the best for her daughter, the beautiful May Beth, who would love to break into film acting.
Richard starts the book by following the separate paths of Albert, Janet, Lester, and Ian. Each character's decision creates a chain reaction of events and relationships that slowly brings them closer together, until in the end, their separate stories merge into a wild climax. And then, for dessert, Richard adds a fun epilogue. This carefully crafted novel is absolutely brilliant.
Because the book follows the lives of four main characters, and Anthony's cutting edge discoveries are the only actual horror story, this is only about one fourth horror novel. The teen-age sociopath inevitably runs into the other characters, but not until the end. But by then, deeply aware of each character's struggles, victories, and weaknesses, I understood exactly what was at stake for each.
Interestingly, although Albert lacks compassion, because his youth and inexperience make him vulnerable, I found myself rooting for him. The poor boy didn't have a mentor. So I cheered him on, hoping he'd escape to continue along his bloody way.
Two small things interfered with an otherwise glorious (or should I say "gorious") story:
Occasionally, I was pulled out of the story a bit because the rhythm created by the short words and sentences interrupted the flow. Usually this happened when a character was doing a series of activities, so it read more like a To Do list than a novel. But most of the time the story rolls along, and the style works particularly well for dialogue.
What bugged me most was Janet's complete oblivion to the dangers of smoking and drinking on a fetus. Richard constantly demonstrates that Janet is an intelligent, kind woman, who loves her baby. She even has a Master's degree! And it's not like she's unthinkingly drinking a habitual beer. She drinks several glasses of wine in the same evening! And none of the other characters seem aware that pregnant women shouldn't drink alcohol either. Maybe Richard didn't know that drinking and second hand smoke are harmful.
Aside from these two annoyances, this is a smart, fun, page-flipping book that's written for intelligent readers. Snag it!
This review copyright 2009 E.C.McMullen Jr.
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